THE two blackest marks on the electoral process are undeniably these: “dagdag-bawas” and the “ Garci” incident. The first piled up woes for the two Pimentels, Nene, then Koko. The second led to many serious questions about the outcome of a presidential election.
Any and all attempts at electoral reforms have been undergirded, consciously or subconsciously, by the imperative to exorcise, with extreme prejudice if necessary, the ghosts of these two ghastly chapters in our electoral history. The passage of the law that mandates the automation of Philippine elections was done with dagdag-bawas as backdrop and point of reference. A manual count of votes was deemed as the prime abettor of electoral fraud.
And we just remembered the fifth anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, the worst election-related violence in our history. We had connected the dots: fear of a machine –based count partly ignited the worst fears of the killer-warlords and pushed them to try to eliminate the competition.
Those who claim to seek electoral reforms and do not recognize the hard truth that manually-counted and manually-tallied elections have been at the root of our compromised elections, to be very kind about it, are out of touch with a de facto national consensus. That in the counting and tallying of votes for 2016, the imperative is to procure machines that are smarter and more efficient than the machines used in 2010 and 2013. Machines that can pass the standards of, say, Steve Wozniak. Machines that can transition from reliable machines into machines with unquestionable integrity.
The vigorous debates on how to count and tally the votes for the all-too-important 2016 presidential election will not be settled soon. Probably, there will be spill-over debates after the proclamation of the new president and vice president in 2016. But as sure as the sun rises in the morning, there would be no going back to the manual count, or a hybrid manual-automated count. The mode of counting and tallying would be a straightaway automated one – machines that would show the true presidential vote winner ASAP and without the dangerous, tension-filled interregnum of a manual count.
The consensus at the official level and the consensus at the ground level is this: automated elections should be used for 2016.
I am often asked this question. Can the Comelec guarantee the procurement of tamper-proof machines and a super reliable election –related technology? My first impulse, when asked this question, was to answer back with this. What would the Ampatuans and their ilk do with a manual mode of counting in an election where they have their political fortunes at stake? Will they act with the required civility? Or, would they respond with the standard impunity? We know the answer.
The truth is Mr. Brilliantes, at his advanced age, and all the sitting commissioners at the Comelec, fear a lynching mob. And these people will surely face the wrath of a lynching mob should they monkey around with the choice of machines for the counting and tallying of the 2016 votes. The procurement of machines and services is something that is taken quite seriously by most citizens. They just don’t talk about it, or express public opinions about this. Or write op-ed prices about their vigilance.
But this is guaranteed to take place once there emerges the slightest suspicion that Comelec is not doing the right thing and is favoring crooked providers. Masses of angry protesters will literally storm Intramuros to sever the scalps of Brilliantes et al.
If you still doubt the silent but raging vigilance of most citizens, just remember this recent episode in our political history.
Mr. Aquino wanted to tamper with the Constitution so he could run for a second term and the reasons are many. The LP’s presidential wannabes are as dour-faced as Leonid Brezhnev and I am referring to the entire pool of possible presidential candidates. And are sure losers. Even with Mr. Binay smeared to the last part of his swarthy anatomy, he remains the hands-down favorite to win in 2016.
Except for Mrs. Aquino, all presidents elected after her had been bitten by the reelection bug despite the constitutional ban. This President is no different: bitten by this bug of self-aggrandizement.
How did the citizens react? They said No in a manner that scared the daylights out of Mr. Aquino. He saw the point and clipped the wings of his unconstitutional ambition.
The ghosts of “Garci” and “dagdag-bawas” have so scarred the national psyche that a return to a manual count would be likened to a conspiracy to bring the electoral process back to the Dark Ages. It won’t wash and it would be without a sliver of credibility.
As citizens, let us collectively monitor the Comelec. Let us just make sure that it gets its tenders from the broadest pool and there is absolutely no reason to exclude any qualified provider from the bidding. International monitors should be asked to assist, and here, there will be no shortage of volunteers.
One can easily spin conspiracy theories about pre-programmed and rigged machines but the truth is it is not even hard to check and monitor on a sustained basis the integrity of vote-counting and vote-tallying machines.
The fact that all the alarums about rigged machines and corrupted elections have failed to generate national ire and indignation is the ultimate proof that the need to exorcise “Garci” and “dagdag-bawas” from the electoral lexicon is the national imperative.
The only issue left is the search for the smartest machines available. And for the sake of our vulnerable democracy, we should not even quibble about the costs.